Choreography. Dance-music from Louis XIV’s Court with Concerto Copenhagen

Last Sunday I went to the beautiful Garrison Church where my favourite orchestra Concerto Copenhagen do most of their concerts when in town.

Garnisons Kirken 
The Garrison Church, Copenhagen.

This Sunday the orchestra was conducted by the British harpist Andrew Lawrence-King in a programme of French dance-music from Louis XIV’s court. The concert was entitled Chorégraphie for the same reason and the hand-out told us that the 17th Century brought with it the first notation of choreography by the dancing-master Raoul Auger Feuillet. Feuillet based his dances on Jean Baptiste Lully’s music for which I have for some time harboured a quiet passion. In this concert Concerto Copenhagen played music by Lully and by a couple of fellows I had never even heard of before: Jean-Henry D’Angelbert and André Campra (more Rameau’s contemporary than Lully’s actually).

Andrew Lawrence-King had brought the guitar player and dancer Steven Player with him to perform some of the choreographies. So when it was required Steven Player would leave his guitar and step out from his place in the orchestra to use the nave as his dancing floor. I was absolutely taken with his appearance. This sternly looking middle aged man performed these pompous and thoroughly choreographed dances with the utmost seriousness and elegance. He opened by acting baroque conductor beating the time of a slow Pavane by banging a long staff against the floor with his back at the audience. Very simple but also effectively creating an atmosphere of ancient times and awe. Lully by the way died after banging such a staff against his foot which then infected and sent him to his Creator. Luckily Mr Player had no such accident this afternoon.

As I was sitting on the second balcony I has a perfect view over the movements just like Feuillet had noted them down:
dans2.jpg

Steven Player then added a variety of hand-movements that seemed very much like the ornaments French baroque music is so famous for. Well actually I couldn’t say if this elegant icing is also noted down – as I am only familiar with the notation of music. But it probably is or at least there must have been some general rules for the dancer to refer to.
Steven Player did what seemed genuine and authentic and for one of the pieces he even managed to dance with his guitar either on his back or playing it!

In between the sets Andrew Lawrence-King told us little bits about the court, the music, the dance and the dancers. And besides from being an absolute virtuoso on his instrument (the harp) he also turned out to be an excellent story-teller.

As I already mentioned Steven Player looked very stern but for one of his last pieces he transformed into a perfect Jester tumbling around, begging with his hat in his hand. A performance worthy of a Commedia dell’Arte expert (as I understand he is). The music said that he was Harlequin but perhaps he was more of the Old Man Lully played with great success in his own ballet Air d’Apollon.

I must say I loved this concert! How wonderful to experience dance and music come together again. This music is so extremely well-suited for dancing (as it was written for it…) that it makes so much sense when performed with a dancer. This kind of multiple arts performances are rare in Copenhagen when it comes to ancient arts. How wonderful to have such wonderful performers as Andrew Lawrence-King and Steven Player to enrich us! I would have loved to witness the concert all over again and I hope they will come back soon!

dans.jpg

/anna

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April 29, 2007. Music, Reviews.

2 Comments

  1. confidentialattachees replied:

    Oh, Anna, that sounds absolutely wonderful! Thank you so much for sharing. And to think that I was in bed with hangovers that whole Sunday… What a waste. It sounds like it was quite a unique experience.

    You’re right, multiple art performance are much too rare here in Copenhagen, and that’s a shame. I remember seeing a performance at the Royal Theatre about seven years ago called “All Ye Need to Know” (named for the last verse Keats’s “Ode on a Grecian Urn”), which featured both opera singers and ballet dancers on stage. The opera singers performed arias and duets, and I remember being particularly moved by a dance called “Pardon My Affection” set to “Ah, perdona il primo affetto” from La Clemenza di Tito. I *heart* that duet, I think it’s so endearing the way the first bar in each stanza is so bold and straightforward (on “Ah, perdona-“) and then the melody sort of squirms as if embarrassed (on “il primo affetto”) by its own straightforwardness. And the coreography imitated this movement in the music, the dancer making bold steps and movements, and then shying away and almost tying himself up in knots, wringing his hands around each other, as if selfconscious. It was beautiful, and it helped me to understand the music much better, so I think it’s something that ought to be done more often.

    And more power to CoCo! It’s been too long since I’ve attended one of their concerts. I have to look into that.

    /marie

  2. Mark Rubin replied:

    I visited Steven Player in Leominster (early/mid 1980’s) and would be grateful if someone could give me his e-mail address. It would be nice to know in case he might turn up in CPH again. Sincerely. M. Rubin.

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